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322 pages, Paperback
First published October 23, 2013
Here’s a little ditty about Nick and Sassa, oh why couldn’t her name have been Ryan, then that ditty would have come across so much better? Oh well, same concept. This IS a story of two lovebirds living in the Big Apple rather than the Heartland, but I did have that song in my head most of the time when reading this book for some reason, perhaps because Nick was a musician or because oftentimes they could be found commiserating over food, although the food was more advanced than chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze.
I was unsure of this novel when I first received it, via the great folks at Goodreads and Rich Marcello through a giveaway, mostly because it seemed to start in the middle of a conversation that I couldn't catch up to. Another reason for my doubtfulness was the fact that it was a love story. I am not completely opposed to love stories, but after a decade of Nicholas Sparks novels/movies dominating the world, the thought of a slow paced love story really made me cringe a bit.
Although, this book started at a slow pace, after a few chapters it picked up and I was completely hooked and suddenly appreciated the pace. It allowed me to fall in love with this couple as they were in the process of falling themselves. With hardships in their past, their relationship required a slower start in order to build trust and avoid unnecessary pain. Both Nick and Sassa were no strangers to pain, he had lost his father when he was 17 and her parents and older sister died in a horrific traffic accident at 13 and through these tragedies they formed a firm bond and trust for the other.
After a year of blissful domesticity, Sassa decides that it is time to “find” herself as this is her pattern with relationships in the past (Damn you Sassa!). Nick is undoubtedly surprised and devastated by this as he only envisioned a future with Sassa. They ultimately agree to have no contact over the years, except for one day each year. On a specified date they agreed to meet each other in the city and to be upfront and honest with each other about what has been going on with their lives and answer three questions that will hopefully lead them back to each other.
What did you learn this past year?
Do you feel whole?
Do you know where you belong?
When Sassa broke things off, she felt that they were two halves working together to make a whole, but she wanted them to become two wholes that come together and last for fifty years.
The first year for Nick was painful and consisted of yearning for Sassa and eventually visiting the Sedona Vortex where he takes Ayahuasca, an organic drug that Peruvian Shamans use to exorcise the demons out of the mind. This is done by reliving the heart of the pain and working through the darkness to come out on the other side. He makes it halfway through before it becomes incredibly overbearing and he leaves the Sedona Vortex without fully completing the full purge of darkness.
Sassa’s first year is a bit different. She meets an older man, Brayden, he wants nothing more than a short-term fling and is upfront with her about that. Sassa finds him maturely appealing and agrees that she doesn’t have the capacity to commit to him in the long run either. He ends up teaching her things about herself that she wouldn’t allow herself to accept, and their relationship ultimately is a testing of her patience, especially when it comes to forming a relationship with his 15-year-old daughter. They finally ended things (on great terms) before Sassa was to meet Nick for their yearly gathering. Things didn’t go over so well when Nick learns about Brayden, considering he spent their year apart working through his pain and living a life of celibacy. In the end, she still wasn’t ready to join forces(Damn you Sassa!)
The second year seems to flip a bit where Nick meets Rachel, a sexual goddess with full-sleeved tattoos on both extremities and a chameleon of personal style. She challenges Nick’s sexual prowess abilities and introduces him to the world of Karma Sutra.
“Your tongue is the brush and I’m the canvas. I’m looking for a masterpiece every time.” -Rachel (Wowza!)
After a rocky beginning, Nick eventually gives in and starts to fall in love with Rachel. Sassa, on the other hand, is more on the search to find herself. Therefore, after their second meeting, it is Sassa that becomes jealous and hurt upon learning about Rachel. And I must say that I found great pleasure in her misery, yes I admit it. My own feelings of Sassa went back and forth and was a complete emotional roller coaster. At times, I felt for Sassa and wanted Nick to run to her and embrace her with every ounce of his being, but then there were times that I felt that she was hypocritical and I would start yelling at the book. For instance, I could’ve jumped in the pages and rattled her when she mouthed:
“I needed you after _______. You left. You disappeared to go find yourself, whatever the hell that means.” -Hypocritical Sassa
There were times that I thought that she pulled herself together quite gracefully and I had presumed it was due to her families passing that she was able to let go of situations that she couldn’t control, therefore I began to root for her again. Only later did I suspect that her “letting go” was perhaps a form of manipulation. (Damn you Sassa!)
Their separation lasts for several years. It is after a handful of tragedies and fully discovering themselves that they are forced to decide if they will let go of the past and make their way through life as two wholes or if the damage is too abundant that a life together would be too painful.
The story of Nick and Sassa was so engrossing for me, but the prose of The Color of Home really drew me in as it was written beautifully and yet in a way that wasn’t distracting. The characters also weaved in several philosophical thoughts that I enjoyed pondering on, for instance:
After Nick’s father died when he was younger, he ran out in the woods behind his home and severed a tree limb with his pocket knife. After he returned home he wrote…
into the woods
for a tree
I cut from it
a large piece
in your memory.
I know the tree is
in great pain now,
as I am.
It has lost
and is vulnerable.
I will visit this place often
to watch the tree
to grieve for
what I have done
what I have lost.
Below is another example of the philosophical tidbits that were intricately weaved through conversation:
“Do you know that the average emotion lasts ninety seconds?” “What we do after that time is what gets us into trouble. We give ourselves- sometimes for years- to emotions that were meant to last no more than a couple of minutes.” -Sassa
Sassa’s conversation with Linnea as she was pondering what the purpose of life was about and how to make changes in the world for the positive:
“It may take a few generations, and I can see how you might be overwhelmed but for me, doing my small part is enough. You have to be okay with the long view, though.” “It means big change takes a lot of time and people, that’s all. It might take one hundred years and millions of committed souls to bring about what we’re talking about.” -Linnea
I feel that all of the characters were defined by either their occupation or their personality strengths. For instance, Sassa is a chef and at one point in the book, I wrote in the margins:
Warning: Do not read this book if you are hungry!
This novel goes into detail of all kinds of entrees, desserts, appetisers, etc. And the descriptions are so detailed that my stomach began growling on several occasions. Rachel, on the other hand, is known for her sexual appetite. So, it wasn’t surprising to me at some point in the book when Nick says,
“ Life is all about sex and food”
Yes, Nick, yes it is. In your situation at least.
Although I had a love/hate relationship with Sassa, I was incredibly annoyed by Rachel, and I wanted to whisk Nick away from them all and keep him to myself, I really loved this book. I was so emotionally invested in each and every character and felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind when it was over. I haven’t been that connected to a book in a very long time. Yes, I rolled my eyes in the beginning and thought that it was going to be too slow for my liking, but that ended up not being true and the characters lives were shown to me in depth through each word. Based on the author’s Goodreads page, this is his first novel. If this is true, the author did an incredible job with the pace of the novel as well as developing the characters in such a way that I was always discovering some new layer of their lives and personality along the way.
I highly recommend this book. It's perfect for snowy days like today. You should read this book and snuggle in a comfy chair under your favorite blanket and get swept away by Nick and Sassa. And if you aren't in a snowy place, snuggle up and read it anyway.